You all know I wear a lot of hats. Housing developer. Community activist. Political observer.
But by far my most important role is that of father to my children. And right now, my daughter’s education is being threatened. Let me explain the situation:
The other day, my daughter (who is in second grade at Phillips Academy Charter School in Newark), looked up at me and asked: “Dad – will I be able to stay at my school forever?”
“You can’t stay anywhere forever, honey,” I told her, trying to deflect.
She didn’t let it go. “No, will I be able to stay there through high school?”
The question broke my heart. Because until a few weeks ago, I thought the answer would be yes, of course. But in January, Governor Murphy and Acting Education Commissioner McMillan denied the requests for seven high-performing charter schools – including Phillips – to serve more students. Now, hundreds of kids in Trenton, Newark, Paterson, New Brunswick and Kearny are going to be immediately shut out of the schools their families love. Thousands more will be denied the opportunities they deserve. Because of the Governor’s decision, Phillips won’t be allowed to grow into a high school as planned. Because of this decision, my daughter has a glass ceiling on her future.
So I hope it comes as no surprise that I am fired up, angry, and ready to speak out. And I talk to lots of parents who feel the same way. These are parents who voted for the Governor in his tough re-election campaign last year, and now they feel betrayed.
We – and so many other families – were counting on that high school. To be honest, Phillips is the reason I stayed in Newark. I know what’s at stake: for most kids in Newark, the choice is between a failing district high school or a private school outside of the city. I wasn’t prepared to make that choice when it came to my own daughter.
I remember thinking: “for once, my daughter can stay in Newark, go to a public school, and get the same quality of education she’d get at a private high school.” It seemed both too good to be true and exactly what she deserved – what any kid deserves.
What makes me so fired up about this is not only the Governor’s decision, but his hypocrisy. He sent his own children to private schools – the highest level of school choice that a parent can exercise. Then he turns around and denies Black and brown parents the same choice. It’s just wrong.
Phillips is a Tier 1 school, which means it is one of the best schools in the entire state. Families couldn’t be happier. It has a clear plan to grow into a high school. So what exactly was missing? Why weren’t they approved? Governor Murphy says he doesn’t care about labels, but if this school wasn’t a charter school, would he have embraced us with open arms?
These are questions that we deserve answers to. Or better yet, the Governor could make it clear where he stands, put the children first, and reverse his decisions. I won’t hold my breath for that to happen, but I sincerely hope he comes to his senses.
Governor – Newark stood with you when you needed us. Now, we need you to have our back and let our children learn.